Serving Spokane, Eastern & Central Washington, and Northern Idaho

What Is Energy Storage and Why It Is Important for Our Electrical Grid?

Close-up View Of Home Battery Storage System On Building Facade

Our mission at Northwest Renewables is to bring energy independence to our Inland Northwest community. We elevate the energy independence experience with our knowledgeable and highly-trained NABCEP-certified PV professionals, consultative systems design, and integrity. As a decarbonization company, we design and install systems that help with these efforts such as PV arrays, Mitsubishi cold-weather heat pumps, energy storage solutions, and EV chargers.

Recently we’ve done a fair amount of consulting with local utility companies and several municipalities, innovating new solutions for grid resiliency, reducing demand on their grids during peak power loads, and providing emergency backup in specific locations in case of grid failure. Though these are commercial projects, we often develop these systems on a smaller scale for residential and homebuilder customers. For these smaller-scale projects, we generally design a PV and battery storage system or install natural gas or a propane-fueled generator.

So, what does energy storage look like and how can your home benefit from a backup strategy?

The majority of our customers are looking for backup power in the event of an outage or emergency. People want to be prepared for a multi-day power outage to prevent food from spoiling, maintain heating and cooling, charge necessary medical devices, or use WiFi. With the cost of replacing food and lost productivity, a backup power strategy is an investment that will pay future dividends, even if it’s just for peace of mind.

Another consideration for energy storage is in regards to Time of Use rates, where the utility provider increases rates during specific timeframes each day; generally during the grid’s highest demand. Think, dinner time in the summer when everyone is blasting their AC and streaming Netflix. We have not seen Time of Use rates in eastern Washington and North Idaho, yet, but we can expect to see them in the future as demonstrated by Puget Sound Energy’s VPP, Avista’s time-of-use pilot projects, depleting snowpack, and a nationwide push toward electrification. These systems always include a backup battery bank, either a standalone stored energy source or combined with a PV array that charges it. During the shoulder seasons and bright summer days in the inland northwest, the PV array keeps the battery charged so it’s ready when needed.

What we see in other markets, such as California with time of use rates, are scheduled timeframes where the customer chooses to use energy from their battery stores, rather than pull from the grid during expensive rate periods.

What are my backup options?

Solar Charged Battery Storage

Homes with grid-tied solar arrays are required to have an automatic shutoff switch that automatically disconnects from the grid during an outage. This is to prevent electricity from harming line workers working to restore power. To use a solar array as an emergency power source, it must be combined with a battery system.

During the shoulder seasons and summer months, the PV array will consistently generate DC (direct current) energy that is then converted to usable AC (alternating current) from the system’s inverter or microinverters. In a typical grid-tied solar array, your home will use the energy produced from the solar panels first, and then any additional energy produced will be sent through the grid where your utility provider credits your account from the power they’ve purchased from you. However, systems with battery storage will first ensure the battery is charged before sending any additional energy back to the grid.

PV and battery systems are peace-of-mind purchases. When consulting with customers during the system design phase we are careful to manage expectations of what the technology and equipment are capable of. These systems are not meant to power your house as an electric grid connection will. They are to ensure that your heating, cooling, refrigeration, WiFi, or whatever you deem critical, are maintained until power is restored. This does not mean streaming every television in the house or finishing a welding project in the garage. These peace-of-mind system investments allow you to continue to live and work while your power company gets the grid back up and running.


As many of our customers begin to decarbonize by swapping out their gas for electric heating and cooling and major appliances, many decide to keep their connection to their natural gas line. Maintaining natural gas connections provides the homeowner with the flexibility to install a backup generator. Northwest Renewables is an authorized Generac Generator installer and as part of the generator installation, we install an automatic transfer switch that can automatically send power to your home’s desired electrical loads. This is a fantastic option in the winter, especially if you have electric heat, water heaters, and range.

Generators are often also paired with battery storage to charge the battery when the solar PV is not producing. We are seeing more and more customers making decisions such as this.

How do you know what backup strategy is best for your home and lifestyle?

When talking with our customers about their energy independence goals, one of the first things we do is determine what their home’s critical loads are. These are the things your life can’t function without, such as heating/cooling sources, fridges/freezers, well pumps, medical devices, and WiFi. This means that when the power goes out, you might not be able to use your waffle maker, but your home’s temperature is comfortable, your food doesn’t spoil, and have internet access to lead your Zoom meetings. Understanding the demand from these electrical loads will help us determine the appropriate PV and battery system or generator size for your home. We generally do this part of our consultation over the phone or electronically.

Everyone has different energy independence goals, so we design a lot of unique systems. Before we finalize a design, we come onsite to finalize the details of your project, such as evaluating your roof or property for solar. We’ll also examine your electrical panel to ensure it has room for additional loads from a generator, PV, and battery system, or potentially even both. If your electrical panel needs to be upgraded to accommodate these additional loads, we will include that in the design’s scope of work.

Federal rebates are available through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for these upgrades. Check out all available rebates here.

Regardless of your energy independence goals, NWR can design a system that will keep your life moving, even when the power is out!